In a criminal prosecution, the State has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. To do that, the State typically gathers evidence that it then intends to admit at trial to prove the defendant’s guilt. If you are currently a defendant in a criminal prosecution, your attorney may file a “Motion to Suppress” during the pre-trial phase of your case. While every criminal prosecution involves a unique set of facts and circumstances, an Omaha criminal lawyer at Petersen Law Office explains the basic concept behind a Motion to Suppress and how it might impact your case.
The time period after a defendant is arrested and arraigned, but before the actual trial, is referred to as the pre-trial phase of a criminal prosecution. A considerable amount of work typically occurs during this time period. Although the State has usually already done a significant amount of investigation, that investigation will continue in an effort to gather more evidence of guilt. The defense, on the other hand, will be reviewing and analyzing that evidence both to decide how to mount a defense and to determine if any of the evidence should be excluded or suppressed.
What Does It Mean to Suppress Evidence?
In the United States, defendants have a number of rights guaranteed to them in the U.S. Constitution. If a defendant’s rights were violated, evidence that is subsequently gathered may not be admissible in court. We also have criminal procedures that must be followed for evidence to be admissible in court. If those procedures were not following during the gathering of evidence, that evidence may not be admissible at trial. A Motion to Exclude or Suppress Evidence (usually referred to as a “Motion to Suppress”) is a motion that is filed during the pre-trial phase of the case which asks the court to exclude one or more pieces of evidence from the trial based on the legal reasons outlined in the motion.
What Legal Reasons Might Be Used to Exclude Evidence?
Evidence may be suppressed, or excluded, for a wide range of legal reasons; however, among the most common reasons for the exclusion of evidence are:
- Illegally obtained evidence – this typically refers to evidence obtained during an illegal search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unlawful searches and seizures. Typically, this means that the police must first obtain a warrant based on probable cause before conducting a search; however, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement. If a judge determines that a search was conducted illegally, any evidence seized during that search may be inadmissible pursuant to the “Exclusionary Rule.”
- Chain of custody violation – not only must evidence be obtained legally, but it must also be handled properly, according to strict procedures, after it is seized. This is referred to as the “chain of custody.” For example, if blood evidence was not properly preserved or there is a time period during which a piece of evidence is unaccounted for, the evidence is potentially tainted and/or could have been tampered with by just about anyone. As such, it should not be allowed to be introduced at trial.
- Illegally obtained statements – most people are familiar with your Miranda Rights. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law etc.” What people often don’t understand is the remedy for not being read your rights. If the police never asked you any questions, it doesn’t matter if they failed to read you your rights. If, however, you were interrogated, or even just asked a few seemingly harmless questions, without being read your rights, anything you said in response may be inadmissible at trial.
If a Motion to Suppress is filed in your case, a hearing will typically be set at which time the respective sides argue their positions. At the end, the judge will either grant or deny the motion. If the motion is granted, the evidence referenced in the motion will not be allowed to be introduced and used against you at the trial.
Contact an Omaha Criminal Lawyer at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Omaha criminal lawyer immediately about the specific facts and circumstances of your case. Contact an Omaha criminal defense attorney at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case.